For years, there has been a tradition in Detroit, Michigan, where spectators throw octopi onto the ice when watching the Detroit Red Wings. However, this is technically illegal; you could go to jail and face fines if you break the law.

How the Tradition Began

The tradition began in 1952, and it started because the NHL used to be much smaller. Due to the size of the league, a team only had to win two series to capture the Stanley Cup and be declared the champion. Each series was a best-of-seven match, just as it is today. Back then, that meant a team had to get to eight wins to take home the title. Since an octopus has eight legs, fans started throwing them while watching playoff games. The tradition stuck, even though there is no other real link between Detroit and octopi, and the Red Wings even use an octopus in some of their merchandise and branding.

Why It Is Illegal

Technically, the law that governs this practice is not aimed only at the throwing of an octopus, but at hurling any item onto the ice. That law is known as City Ordinance 38-5-4. It is often ignored -- such as when fans throw their hats on the ice if a player scores three goals in one game -— but the NHL can enforce it if they wish to. The league has been pushing to enforce it more lately to keep the players safe.

If you break the law and are caught, even if they let you into the stadium with the octopus, you could be taken to jail and you could be fined $500. Naturally, you can also be ejected from the game.

Officials, even those with the police force, have often said that they don't care about this law and respect the tradition, so you'll still see an octopus land on the ice occasionally when watching a Red Wings game. However, it's important to understand that they can enforce the law if they desire. It is more than a policy held by the arena, which is why you need to know your legal rights.